Anti-War Group Wants Vermont Air National Guard Out of Airport

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- A local anti-war group wants to expel the Vermont Air National Guard from its base at Burlington International Airport because of its involvement in the Iraq war.

The group is calling on city leaders to end a lease between Burlington and the federal government for land at the airport the Air Guard uses as its headquarters, maintenance shop and flight line.

Members of Take Back the Air Guard, the local group, said their effort is one they hope communities with Air Guard bases across the country will consider and copy.

''The Air Force is using the Vermont National Guard to fight the Iraq war. We vehemently oppose and have always opposed the Iraq war. Bottom line, this is an anti-war resolution, period. This is not an anti-Guard resolution,'' said Hal Cochran, a member of Take Back the Air Guard. ''They have no business going to Iraq. They are an air-defense unit.''

Guard officials disagree. Traditionally and now, the National Guard has served state and federal missions, duties that include responding to disasters, performing homeland defense and fighting in wars, Guard spokeswoman 1st Lt. Veronica Saffo said.

''We're trained to perform the mission that the secretary of defense and the president provide us with,'' she said. ''The soldiers and airmen raised their hands and volunteered to perform those missions as ordered.''

The Guard flies at the airport under the terms of a 2003 agreement with the city, in which the U.S. government contracted to pay $4,080 per year to Burlington. The agreement expires June 30, 2008, according to a copy of the document.